The Prince of the Invisible

The door had been bolted and barred longer than anyone could remember. It seemed better to go in through the side anyway. Long-ago one insistent person had begun the slow process of removing the plaster and stones, chipping away at the mortar with a spoon as if he was a prisoner breaking out. And yet he was free, he was outside. It made no sense to the passers-by, what he was doing, but he wasn’t in their way so they let him be, free to scratch and scrape as he pleased.

The ownership of the building had passed into public domain by this point so not even the police or the insurance company felt the need to get involved. So he scraped away day by day, but only when the shadows protected him. His skin was too fair to risk being out in the Guadal sun for very long.

He thought he’d be through in a week, tops. But the builders had done their job well so it took nearly 2 months to make a hole big enough for him to crawl through. And what treasure did he find on the other side! You would have thought he was Howard Carter in his excitement. He could barely keep his joy to himself. The neighboring shopkeepers hurried over for the whoops and chortles. They’d long gotten used to this strange visitor but this was something else. They stooped down and peered in – and saw nothing, nothing save the unusual prospector with his spoon, sitting in the middle of the empty room, talking up a storm to the air.

And that was that. Nothing to see here. Move along. The town, collectively but silently, agreed to let him stay there.

Who cared if he was a little weird? Who minded if he saw things that weren’t there? They left him to himself the same as they left people who didn’t see what was there. Maybe he was more advanced than they were. Maybe it wasn’t time for them to see the treasures yet. Who could say? So they left him be, but they contracted to have a window built in the gap he made. It wouldn’t do to have people coming in to bother him. Only those who were persistent (and particular) enough to go in via the window were worthy of an audience with the Prince of the Invisible anyway.

Because that is who he had become. Or maybe he’d always been? Maybe this was who he truly was, underneath the mask of normalcy he’d always put on when he was around everyone else. Maybe he’d always seen the spirits the same as solid people. Or maybe the potential had only been unlocked on that day when he’d finally crossed the threshold, especially on such an unusual way. Perhaps the spirits took note of his persistence.

Perhaps it was none of that and it was just finally time for the talent to be revealed to the town, like he was at a debutante ball. Now he was fully himself, out in the open, at large. Now he was multidimensional and could openly use all of his senses.

He held court with the spirits in that room for days at a time, seemingly unaware that time was passing. He didn’t grow tired or hungry while he was with them either. It is as if he took on some of their characteristics while he was with them. When he would leave the room, he would return to the world of the physical and require all the usual things and be subject to all the usual limitations. No wonder he seemed to prefer his time inside, where the spirits acknowledged and even respected him. It was much better among them than with regular people.

For the spirits were people too, no doubt about it. They were just as real, just as present as the visible ones. Many were quite powerful and opinionated, just as they had been in life. Some were the spirits of those who had lived before. Some had yet to incarnate. Some had been around the wheel of reincarnation so many times it was difficult to say whether they were coming or going.

All that mattered now was that they’d found each other, this unusual sort of kinship, a family cobbled together out of people who were unexpectedly able to interact with each other. And wasn’t that better anyway, better than the usual family where the usual people could barely stand to be in the same city with each other, much less in the same home.

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Some When


The paint was peeling on the old doors, but there were no plans to fix it. In the eyes of the caretakers it was a sin to change things from the original. That was the paint that Ebenezer Crimmins put on those doors, lo, those 127 years ago. Yes, they knew exactly how long it had been. They kept track of all of that, and even more. Every tiny detail was documented and filed in triplicate for posterity. It wouldn’t do to have something forgotten.

Sure, they couldn’t see the pattern now, but they had faith that it would surface later. Everything made a pattern one way or another if you sorted it right. Sometimes it was the focus you put on it – duration, frequency, type. Sometimes it was interval – how much time between. They knew it had to surface somehow, but only with enough data and the right person or computer to do the sifting. But now was not the time. Now, nothing made sense except to save everything, change nothing. Who knew what would be the final clue to unlock the mystery? Not them, not yet. But they knew enough that some when, someone had to find the solution.

For shortly after old Ebenezer Crimmins painted that door marking the completion of the house, he disappeared. Not went away. Not was kidnapped. No, nothing as easy as that. Simply disappeared, as easy as you please, fading away to nothing as the paint dried on the doors. He put the paintbrush down and had begun to remove his paint spattered overalls and it just started happening. Passersby thought it was a trick of the light, being odd as it was on that late December day.

It was a rare sunny day, and warm for a change, that December 20, the day before the solstice. The light was slantwise that day, all shifty and strange. Most people didn’t take note of it, but Ebenezer did. He didn’t trust it, no sir, but the door needed painting before the rains came. It wouldn’t do to have the bare wood unprotected. All that work on the house would be for naught if it wasn’t protected.

The house was like every other house in the village, small and squat. The walls were thick, made from the local clay, fired in a kiln built on site, purpose built just like for every house in the village. There was a kiln as part of every yard – they all stayed. Used to fire the bricks to make the house, then afterwards to make whatever pottery the residents needed. Some had small stoves built adjacent, to take advantage of the heat but not mix the materials. It wouldn’t do to get the clay mixed into the food.

All the houses were built by the community as a gift to the new inhabitants. They were not expected to construct their own house, or even to design it. Each house was made for the family in accordance with its needs and the prophecy determined for it. Manys the family of three that were surprised to move into a home with six bedrooms, only to discover they were more fertile than expected or in-law had to move in because of illness. Likewise, manys the family of eight that had to squeeze into a house with four bedrooms, only to discover tragedy came soon after.

For families were not allowed to move once they were in their own home. Once built, you were there for better or worse. Children could move away only upon marriage. There were no apartments, no dorms. Everyone lived with their family and never alone, even in the case of death. If a spouse died, the member returned to their homestead. Houses stayed in the family for generations, until the family died out or the house deteriorated. Sometimes the two happened at the same time.

But this tradition had come to be questioned by the very people it excluded. The loners, the misfits, those alienated from their family – they wanted to live apart rather than endure living together with people who didn’t understand them. Yet there was no place for them – not until this house. Constructed quietly, without council oversight, it had appeared almost overnight and remained empty, with no official resident listed. The villagers who built it had worked quietly, unofficially, and were known only to each other. Only Ebenezer would be public in his actions, finishing the paint job on that fateful day.

After 130 years, the villagers finally understood what had happened to him. He disappeared because they chose to not see him, to pretend that he was not doing this thing. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t spoken aloud. They just looked away, out of embarrassment perhaps, or consternation. They didn’t know what to think about what he was doing, so they chose not to think about him at all.

So he disappeared, slowly but surely, and soon there was nothing left of him. Nobody ever stepped foot in that house, for fear the same would happened to them. Nobody ever tried to build another home for singles either.

It took all that time to develop a pattern to see, truly see, what had caused the disappearance. It would take a dozen more years to learn where, or rather when, Mr. Crimmins had gone. For he’d not just faded from their sight, he’d faded from their timeline. He’d gone nearly 150 years into the future, many times the normal period of reincarnation.

It took 49 days for Tibetans to reincarnate, which was a comfort in that culture. There was no need for a protracted grief. You knew your loved one was alive again, and soon. There was no need to wait for the resurrection – it was happening all the time. Mr. Crimmin’s culture had no such consolation. The resurrection happened just the same to them, but they didn’t know it. It wasn’t like anybody had ever come back and told them. Until now.

Because Mr. Ebenezer Crimmins came back, looking exactly as he did when he left. He got to pass go and collect $200. He won the game and lived to tell about it – really. He was so thankful the town had archived his life so he had proof he was who he said. Otherwise they might have locked them up or cast him out. Because that was what most cultures did to people who spoke truth that seemed better than they could believe. 

A quick resurrection wasn’t what they wanted.  They were programmed for death, and guilt, and waiting, and never seeing the other side any time soon.  So they didn’t like the idea of this walking ghost, this man their grandparents knew, standing among them telling them it wasn’t like that at all.  They didn’t have to fear death. They all would get a second chance, and a third, and a 27th.  He might as well have told them that they didn’t have to worry about money, or sickness either. 

Farmhouse

She nearly slipped on the moss covered cobblestones. How long had it been since someone had used this hatch? And yet the planter near the gate had a tiny plant in it – trimmed, healthy, not unruly and wild as cultivated plants went. This was being tended – but by who? And why wasn’t s/he using the door? Why come all this way to keep this plant in a pot alive? This corner of the farm wasn’t exactly on the way to anything you needed. There weren’t chickens to feed, horses to comb over here. And yet someone had been here, and recently – within the week at least.

Funny how wildflowers never needed attention,but everything else did. Maybe it was time for people to start valuing things as they were and stop messing with nature. Nature knew best how to stay alive.

But now she was in charge of the farm. It washers, to have and to hold from this day forward, until she died. She hoped it was for better, not worse, but you never knew with these arrangements.

The country had offered this unique real estate plan for 30 years or more now and it was working out well. If you promised to improve the property and to never sell it, you could stay there for free. It was a great way to deal with the homeless crisis and abandoned buildings at the same time. Two birds, one stone.

Once a minor government worker had put the pieces together it was so obvious a solution that the bureaucrats almost didn’t act on it. It was so simple that they thought there had to be a hitch. Where was the profit? How could they benefit – in tax revenue, if nothing else? Once it was explained that they no longer had to pay the police to chase off squatters, they started to warm up to the idea. Once it was explained that they also wouldn’t have to spend any money on the homeless, they cottoned to the idea even more. And yet they still were wary – were they simply letting the squatters win? Was this another liberal trick?

There were background checks. There were interviews. There were tests. There were forms – God were there forms! That alone weeded out the illiterate and the impatient. Only those who made the time to wade through all that folderol were up to the task after all.

Plenty of people who won the challenge moved in right away, bringing their whole family with them – aunts, cousins, dogs, the lot. They had learned in the interview process that it would require many hands to make light work of all the farm chores. Others, lacking in blood kin,scouted the neighboring villages – the farm houses often being isolated affairs– and hired the very people who had been ousted as squatters the weeks before in the transition.

Those people knew the patterns of the farms – where the animals huddled in bad weather, where it was dry and where was wet. This knowledge would help speed things along. Plus – they were often grateful to legitimately live where they had spent so much time. To get paid in bed and board at a place you’d stay for free was a real blessing. The farms ended up like a kibbutz – a collective, where no profit was expected and hard work was understood.

But this little doorway – with its rough hewn wood and antique door lock – what was it guarding? And how long since it had been opened? Or had it ever? It was entirely possible that the door had been created just to keep something in forever, or at least as long as it was alive.Otherwise why have a lock? If it was something that needed to be forgotten, it could have been walled up, with no sign to passersby that there was anything of interest beyond.

So she found someone on the farm who could pick locks, and away they went into the hatch, just the two of them, but prepared at least with a pitchfork and a hoe. There was no telling what they would face.

Inside they met a mirror monster, which greeted them with suspicion and curiosity and a bit of entitlement. The two humans felt that this was their home and everyone else needed to leave – in the mirror monster felt the same way. It was only showing them what they showed it. It was nature, at its most basic, and it had stayed alive all this time because most of the people who encountered it were comfortable with the foreign, the alien. They saw it as a friend they didn’t know yet, rather than an enemy to be defeated.The mirror monster lived in this field – had as long as memory and longer. It roamed its land and never strayed.

A century ago or more a landowner had marked off the monster’s land, declared it sacred and special, because he felt whole there. This was his special place to remember who he really was – not scattered and divided, but complete and calm and centered.

If he’d been of the religion bent, he might’ve told the local rabbi or vicar about this place and let them enclose it further, building tall walls and a roof to further mark the space as sacred, as set-aside, but he wasn’t, so he didn’t. He felt it was important to leave this area for anyone who needed it, rather than seal it up only for those of that one faith tradition and only open when they felt like it.

It was his ancestor who watered the plant near the hatch, but she did it secretly. It wouldn’t do to call attention. Her forefather, the one who built the walls but not the door, had been ousted by someone of a different ilk, a darker bent. That person had come to visit but had jealousy in his heart. He saw the flourishing farm and wanted it for his own.

He used the law to his own advantage, not as it was intended.Instead of the law being a shield to protect the innocent, it was used as a sword to cut and divide. Within a few short months the farm changed hands.

When this interloper, this usurper, entered the field, the mirror monster struck with full force, meeting energy with energy as was its nature. Faced with his own ugliness, his own greed, the new owner put up a gate with a lock to ensure he never accidentally walked in there again. If the farm were smaller, he’d have torn down the walls and dug up the field, attempting to eradicate the spirit. Not like that would have done him any good – the force occupied the space, not the land. It was beyond the material, beyond what you could see and touch.

This would have been the case had a shrine been built there too – the place didn’t make you better or worse. It just made you more of what you already were.

These mirror monsters were everywhere, and many’s the temple that had been built over their domain. And many of the sacred sites had good people as well as bad visit. The place could serve as a challenge to the unsettled, the suspicious – where they suddenly had a choice. Continue feeling unsettled, fearful, or start feeling curious and open. They had a choice to stay where they were or become someone else – someone open and hopeful.

But now she thought – what to make of this place? Or did it need anything done to it? Not everything needed to be “developed”. Some things are perfect as they were, unspoiled, naturally alive. There is a wisdom in the unspoiled, the as-is. Where did humans get the idea they were improving land –that their way was better than God’s way?

Forest

The forest had grown up around the archway, twisting tendrils and vines into and over and through the rough hewn stones. It would be impossible if not foolish to cut away the foliage now – living plant and dead stone had merged into one being now, inseparable.

The founders of the garden had no idea this would happen, but they and their plans were long forgotten by now. What had been the centerpiece of the village had become an afterthought, a ruin. It was a century later this treasure was rediscovered during a push for more housing. The forest that had grown up was now seen as expendable, extra, not vital. Some politicians even preyed on people‘s fear and said that dangerous animals lurked within, or that the forest harbored criminals or immigrants.

So now the garden has been found again, and now the people learned it was built as a sanctuary for peace, an embassy of healing. This was created as a “breathing room” for anyone who needed it – a sanctuary of stillness and calm where people of all walks of life could refresh and recharge their souls.

However they’d forgotten the need for this, forgotten they had to tend the soil of their hearts in order to bear fruit. Forgotten, to their peril and loss.

Anchorite

She looked out of the small window in the door, her only connection to the outside world. For over two decades she’d been kept in this tiny apartment, alone to work. It would be nearly another decade before she would be released, her job done.

It wasn’t quite imprisonment, but there was some truth to the monastic term “cell” that was used to describe her place. It had the basics –toilet, tub, and a kitchenette, along with a bed and a desk. Just enough and not too much. It was hers and hers alone.

Only that which could fit through the tiny window in the door could be given to her or from her. That was fine because she made most of what she needed from raw materials – fabric, grain, it made no difference to her.She had the time to sew or bake as the occasion warranted. She learned it was useful time – it didn’t take away from her writing. When she felt that the well of words was dry, she filled it up by being creative in other ways. Plenty a solution was found when her hands were busy making.

It looked dark in there to outsiders but that was to dissuade them. It wouldn’t do to have people want to follow her in this life. It wasn’t easy or for those who had no discipline. It was a quiet life, with tiny pleasures that came when they wanted to. There was little glory in it, but there was a lot of grace. Here she learned the value of patience and of practice – the slow sure path to the only kind of perfection available on this side of eternity.

In her cell was all the light she needed, provided by the Light of the world. Every day the Spirit of God would descend like a September cloud upon her chest of drawers, between the two angel candlesticks. No one else ever saw this. No one else would ever believe it either.

Her bureau wasn’t just a place to keep her clothes. It was also the Ark of the covenant, the site of the mercy seat. Plenty of folks thought it was lost, but that was because the trail had gone cold all those centuries ago. God knew it wouldn’t do to keep such a thing around. Even then it had become an idol, a stand in, a replacement for the One who visited there.So God hid it from people’s minds, making it lost to those who sought it.

It had been in Jeanne’s family for a century or more. Her great-grandfather found it in an antique shop in Normandy and knew right away what it was. A modest price, and to the casual eye it was just a chest of drawers and nothing else. Certainly not a holy thing, the holy thing.

It hadn’t been brought to Normandy. Truth be told, the shop owner was surprised to see this item when Jeanne’s ancestor asked for help loading it onto his wagon. But she was always misplacing things in her labyrinthine shop anyways. Maybe her partner had brought it in on one of her rare days off. Perhaps it was time for a real vacation, she mused, but how to find the time? The shop wouldn’t run itself.

Jeanne’s ancestor could see the Ark for what it was because he wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else. It appeared to him, showed him what it truly was, only because he was content in a way that the world didn’t teach.He wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else, be anyone else. So when it came time to pass it on, he did nothing. The chest / Ark would find the right person, or it would leave the family and go somewhere else. Wasn’t that the way with the Spirit? It made no sense to assume the mantle of glory would pass on to the next generation. It wasn’t hereditary like a monarchy. The only monarch was God, not a human. It was only logical that God would crown any one of his children – or none at all.

Jean was grateful the Ark had made it to her, but it wasn’t an accident. Her parents and grandparents in that line had been very centered and calm and had taught her how to live the same way. It was like a double inheritance, now that she thought about it – a calm presence and the presence of God. It was how she was able to be locked away in her cell all these years.And yet, she looked forward to the time when the harvest was right and she could teach the world all that God had taught her face-to-face.

(Written 10/8/18)

Gateway

The house was built up around the doorway, not the other way around. Much like how paved roads developed from foot paths, it was easier to follow the path of least resistance, or the path that was most efficient.

That doorway had been an arch, a gateway to an elevated position. It worked a change in status, a never going back. Those who walked across that threshold were forever transformed.

Was it the place itself that caused the transformation, or the act of it? Was simply walking up those steps and under the arch enough of the sign – a decision made and cemented by the physical act? Or was there something to the years of bare feet crossing this threshold with the same firm intention, the same true heart? Like water wearing a groove in a river bed, the channel simply grew deeper and more sure, more able to hold true to its path.

For centuries there was just this place. No steps, no archway – and certainly no door or walls. Nobody questioned it. It was never used accidentally or irreverently. But then times changed. People moved away from the village. Customs were not passed down intact. Things that adults took for granted as fact were not taught to the children. They assumed they knew, forgetting or never realizing their own quiet and subtle indoctrination.

Ways of being together in community, the ways that marked each group as separate and distinct, weren’t automatic. They could not be presumed to be known. They required careful and deliberate teaching, but not the overt kind. You couldn’t teach someone how you lived together the same way you’d teach the rules of the road or a language. No, that teaching was hidden in the unspoken language, through tone, through how you held your body, through the look on your face. That was taught in the under-language, but it still must be taught.

Had the communication breakdown happened when the families became decentralized? New couples moved away from hometowns, in search of jobs or change. Both wife and husband worked instead of just one, because there were so many more things they had to buy. If they’d stayed put they could have gotten family to help instead of having to hire it out to strangers. Babysitting or home repair weren’t cheap, and caused a strain on already meager resources.

Or had the transmission of culture disintegrated because of the influx of others from elsewhere? While one group of couples left, another came to fill in the gap, both in search of greener pastures, not realizing that one person‘s trash was indeed another one’s treasure.

Perhaps it was a bit of both, or something more. No matter, the fact was a fact – and the fact was that the majority of the town didn’t know the whys and the wherefore of the village’s unique tradition. Rather than have someone accidentally be changed, the older villagers chose to enclose the area, to make it impossible to cross unless the initiate was truly ready. It wouldn’t do to have someone accidentally become something they weren’t ready for.

And what exactly happened at that gateway? What did initiates become? They were not given a new title or a new name. Their new membership in this unique club was never notarized. There were no meetings, fees, or dues. But there was most certainly a change that came over them, a palpable difference. Perhaps it was the lightness of the heart, or a twinkling of the eye, but they were different.

Once they crossed that threshold they ceased being alone. All fear left them, all doubt, all pain. Once they crossed over they were not the same person because they were more than just a person. They were joined, made whole, reunited. They were one with the Creator. It was Nirvana. It was heaven on earth. It was Zen. Sure, they still carried water and chopped wood. It wasn’t like they sat around all day thinking about God. They didn’t have to. Once they crossed over, they shared the mind of God, which was even better. There was no need to stop working, because work itself became a delight, a way to yoke action with thought – a way to bring forth God’s light into the world.

But why wall this up? Why put a doorway? Wouldn’t everyone want this bliss, this grace,? It turned out that the person had to be prepared and willing to accept this change. Otherwise it was like trying to move a dozen people into an efficiency apartment. There was no room for you to move around, no space to think or rest. Unprepared, a newly expanded person often went mad. Some had delusions of grander, when in reality they weren’t even adequate. Some thought they were God. Some thought they were Moses, or Elijah, or Jesus. The mental hospitals and homeless shelters in the big city begin to fill up with these lost souls, these broken vessels, because the people of the village shunned them. They didn’t know what had happened, didn’t know that these people had crossed through the gateway prematurely, unready, unknowing. All the villagers knew was that they suddenly had strangers in their midst, people who looked like their friends and neighbors but acted like aliens. They no longer fit inside their bodies or community, so they left, pushed out. A village this small could not function with people that broken. So to prevent further losses, the elders made the gateway into a sanctuary, a shrine, unlocked only on ember days and solstices. Those who had already become whole would wait inside on those days and welcome their newest members.

Not everyone crossed the threshold. Not everyone wanted to. Not everyone was up to it. Not everyone knew what it was. But for those who crossed, their lives were never the same again.

Written mid November 2017

The red door.

The red door was the door of his remembering and her forgetting. Seven simple steps up to reach it that he knew intimately. Every crack and crevice was as familiar to him as the back of his hand. He’d seen them often enough in the 18 years he wandered up the steps, always looking down.

One never entered this sanctuary any other way. It just wasn’t done. Not until she came along.

Perhaps it was because of the lapse in her religious instruction. The years between when her parents left that church when she was 5 to when she returned on her own as a young adult might have been the important difference.

He never left the faith, never saw a reason to. So he didn’t understand when she balked at going to his church when they got married. He didn’t see anything wrong with the rites and rituals, didn’t think anything was broken and in need of fixing.

He didn’t see how harmful it was to see only men up front, only men leading the service. Even boys were allowed up there, but never women. A boy of eight could stand closer to the altar than she could. There was more than just the altar rail standing between her and the central focus of his faith. Over 2000 years of tradition, of “we’ve always done it this way” stood between her and God too.

He’d never been on the outside, so he didn’t know. He didn’t know how harmful it was to exclude half the population, because he’d never been on the other side.

Perhaps if she hadn’t spent those years away she never would have noticed. Perhaps, like a lobster in a pot, she wouldn’t have noticed she was being slowly killed, her spirit squashed into a state of compliance and submission.

But she had left and she knew better. She knew that the truth wasn’t up there at the altar. Heck it wasn’t even in the pews.

So his holy place, up the stairs and through the red door – painted red to indicate the Holy Spirit, wasn’t home for her.

She tried to get him to see the error of his church, how Jesus never intended service to be a ritual but a real thing. 2000 years of wrong is still wrong, no matter what they said.So she didn’t go anymore. 

She went, at first, to please him, to go along. When she was in the middle of the Mass she’d feel an odd homesickness, the same ache she had when she came back to her family home after her parents died. It just wasn’t the same. It couldn’t be.

When she was sitting in those familiar wooden pews she forgot who she was, forgot about all the lies being told about her and about God, forgot that original sin came about because Adam didn’t stop his wife from breaking a rule she’d never been told.

Wasn’t that always the way? A secondhand story, a game of telephone where the stakes were so high they included eternal banishment and pain and work. If only he’d stood up to that serpent and defended her as a husband should, instead of mutely watching to see if she’d fall for the bait. Perhaps she was his canary in the coal mine, his measure of danger. Perhaps he didn’t believe God was that serious about the penalty, but wasn’t willing to risk it himself.

It was too dangerous to forget this. Forgetting that betrayal made her forget herself, made her betray her own sovereignty. So she stayed away.

And him? He kept going, week after week, not even minding that she didn’t go. He prayed for her to change, of course, to wake up, to see the error of her ways. He knew that one day she’d have to submit to God‘s will and stop being so obstinate and self-centered.

(Written before October 2018)